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Golden Kisses

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You cannot forget if you would those golden kisses all over the cheeks of the meadow, queerly called dandelions.

-Henry Ward Beecher

\\

Matt’s never been traded. He’s said goodbye to friends over the years, waved them off on their way to wherever they were signed now while hoping they’d find a good fit when they got there. In hockey there really is no such thing as a ten year, 10000 mile warranty. But he’s always just sorta . . . known. When he stepped off the plane in Denver that first time, learning to navigate the altitude and the one way streets with Factor at his back, he’d known that he was exactly where he belonged. More importantly he knew that he wasn’t going anywhere. There was no guarantee, never a guarantee, but he just sorta felt it inside his stomach, the same way he felt hockey and his family. It just felt like it was true.

When he got word that they’d signed Varlamov he’d spent a few minutes googling to be sure he was thinking of the right Varlamov. Not that there were any others. It's just that, even in an elite league, there are enough guys floating around that he can’t claim to know every single one off the top of his head, and they’d never really had much to do with each other. Opposite conferences, and all that. So he takes a few minutes to be sure he was thinking of the right Capitals goalie before calling Sacco and asking him to give Varlamov (Semyon, he reminds himself. Varly, now that he’s got their sweater) his congratulations and his phone number. He’s pretty sure Paul and Milan have beaten him to it, but it never hurts to offer. He’s in Denver for the 4th, and.

And it never hurts to offer.

\\

what do you think of him and giggy? he sends Paul one day, half out of curiosity and half out of the need to talk about Varlamov with someone.

Patrick always liked JS. He’ll probably never stop rolling his eyes at how easily Paul talks about the old guard. Matt can remember the old interviews just the same, before either one of them were signed, Patrick Roy’s little smirk as he proclaimed Luongo and Giguere the next big things in goal tending. It still carries a lot of weight, Patrick saying something like that about a player.

I watch interviews too

Never guessed. Point is they’ll be good for eachother Paul has a point on that. More than anything, goalies should be good for each other. Especially since sometimes, since lately, they lean on each other more than they can lean on the team.

\\

He watches Varla — Varly’s presser a few days later. The first thing he notices, right behind are those pants for real? and holy shit, accent, is that Varly’s smiling a lot more than he’s used to seeing. And, okay. He doesn’t know him from Jesus but he’s never seen him smile like that in the few interviews he’s seen. The guy looks genuinely excited, speaking slowly and enunciating as smoothly as he can while he reads the prepared speech on the podium in front of him. There’s nothing disgruntled or unwilling about the way he’s addressing the media, he doesn’t look like one of those players who’s pissed to be stuck in Denver behind the Avalanche and their hilariously fickle defense core. It’s already a point in his favor. At least he’s not Craig; though, in all fairness, probably no one would be Craig.

Semyon looks a little overwhelmed, a little uncertain but mostly he looks happy and ready to begin. There’s a nervous edge behind his admission that this is his first interview in English, a little shyness that he holds in his shoulders and awkward eye contact. But when he starts talking about the Avalanche, about his new home, his shoulders rise and firm across his back – he stands straighter and more certain. His eyes barely leave the page as he makes his way through the words, slow and steady, but when he reaches the moment where most players give lip service to their new team – recounting their glorious history while expressing their overwhelming joy to be there, he looks up.

Matt finds himself smiling a little at the small dig he offers first – “the Avalanche history has only been here 15 years” – as though any of them could forget that. But there’s respect in his voice when he reminds them of what that history has held.

When the reporters settle into their places, priority on Julie and some of the guys from the local stations, Varlamov is forced to break from script and — of course, of course — the first question is about Patrick, because there’s no way it wouldn’t be. It’s impossible to play under that banner without talking about Patrick like he’s still there, still the best thing to happen to the team. Matt got it with Joe, same as Landeskog is already hearing it about Peter. Varly smiles a little shy, a little secretive. There’s no one there to help him with English, and his responses are slow and halting at first. No, he does not play like Patrick. Yes, he did watch the Avalanche as a child – that’s greeted with more skepticism than it warrants, as though the NHL begins and ends in continental North America and there is no way a child from Russia would watch and idolize Patrick Roy. It leads to follow ups, questions for something that doesn’t necessarily require explanation. But his face is animated as he says it, a little smile and dimples and excitement. It’s as genuine as Matt’s own childhood memories, an earnestness that’s so rooted in childish sincerity that it’s impossible to fake.

He likes him. It’s a snap judgment based on little more than some videos off the Cap’s site and a single presser, but he seems like a good player, a good guy. Matt figures he’ll fit in quickly enough, they’re a young team and infinitely flexible in their acceptance.

Matt never gets a chance to talk to Varly. He’s not sure if Sacco passed on his message or not; he figures it’s probably not important one way or another. They’ll talk when they have time, and they’ll be friends or they won’t. It’s a pretty low pressure situation, and he’s not the welcoming committee, anyway.

\\

He’s not expecting Lokomotiv. No one is. It’s already the off season from hell and no one’s even considering that they’re going to wake up and see that all over the news, everything compounded a thousand fold. It’s not comprehensible, lives lost so suddenly and so silently, halfway around the world. Everything around them moves like a dream, unreal and impossible, equally impossible to escape.

In the end it doesn’t make any more sense than the sky being blue and the ground being solid does, and that’s a dumb thought, one that means exactly nothing at all — because it happened, and they’re all gone now, and that’s exactly what doesn’t make any sense at all.

Of all the people on the planet to be there, Joe Sakic is one of the best. He’ll always carry the kid who watched over his teammate’s bodies after the Broncos’ bus crash inside of himself, even if he rarely speaks about it. And not just Joe, either. The whole organization rallies around Varly. There’s nothing else they would do.

Even though he’s been a touch elusive with the team they’ve all heard his story by now. It’s not as though he would have been on that plane — but the thing is, he could have been, and it’s enough to have everyone a little extra cautious, a little extra grateful that he’s with them. They have training camp coming up and Sacco telling him to take his time, go back home and be there, to grieve for as long as he needs. They’ll all be there when he comes back.

It’s a testament to Varly that he returns to them so quickly.

\\

Matt’s almost forgotten that he gave Sacco permission to give Varly his number, but then there’s a strange number on his screen while he’s wrestling with the complicated coffee maker that Footer got him as a housewarming gift. He gives up on it for the time being, squinting at the screen to figure out what the hell’s going on. It’s something from an unknown number, and normally he’s leery of those. But, well. It might be someone interesting, and when he answers it’s their goalie. It has to be, he can’t really mistake his voice for anyone else’s. He’s calling Matt from somewhere in Denver. Apparently he’s a little lost and a lot unsure of how to get to . . . some place that he’s trying to get to. His accent is harder over the phone, cell to cell making it sound tinny and distant. It takes Matt nearly five minutes to figure out where he’s calling from, let alone where he wants to go, so he just promises to come and find him. He’ll figure the rest out later.

Luckily Varly can read street signs — and a part of him is thinking of course, he’s not a child while another part has to admit that if he got lost in Russia there’s no way he’d do as well as Varly is. Turns out it’s close enough to home that it might as well be at his front door. He pulls on a pair of sneakers without bothering to tie them, remembers to grab his keys (because Paul has had to call a locksmith for him enough times in the past month that Matt will never, ever forget his keys ever again, well into old age when senility would excuse it) and jogs the easy mile to where Varly is sitting in the grass next to the curb. His thin legs are drawn up to his chest and he’s poking absently at a dandelion like he’s trying to decide if he wants it blown apart or not. Finally he decides, puffs a breath across it and watches the seeds float away with a distant expression, his face clouded and closed off.

“They’re not weeds. They’re flowers,” he finds himself telling Varly, sudden enough that the other man jumps. “Footer told me that. But they grow so easy, and they survive everything, so they became a weed.”

Varly stares at him blankly, polite but clearly unsure. He’s squinting up towards Matt’s face, and that’s when he realizes he’s wearing a hat and sunglasses and not a single article of clothing with his name conveniently stitched onto it.

“I’m Matt,” he offers belatedly, lifting his glasses a little so Varly can see his face before dropping them back onto his nose. “Um. Dutchy. Duchene.”

“Ya, I see.” He offers that little smile, sideways like a smirk even though it seems too real to be anything like sarcasm as he scrambles to his feet. “Sorry. I get lost on way.”

“No problem,” he assures him, shoulders back and trying to diagnose the feeling in his gut. “What direction were you headed?”

His smile is polite and blank again. Matt’s seen that look on teammate’s faces before, so he backpedals in his phrasing. “Where did you want to go?”

“Oh.” He looks at his phone, down and then up. “I ask Milan for address.”

Milan’s settled halfway across Denver, certainly not in his new neighborhood. “Man, you got turned around. Hedgy lives over the other side of town.” He points helpfully in the general direction, hoping that somehow Varly can use that to figure out where he should be. He’s not really sure how that works, actually.

“You not live here?” His eyebrow furrows impressively. Matt returns his stare, blink for blink, until he waves his hands around. “Your house? Is near here? I ask Milan, he give direction.” He looks up at the sign he’s camped under, expression suspicious. Like it must be lying to him. “How you get here fast without car?”

“I live over there.” Matt gestures equally vaguely at his own home.

“Oh! Not so lost, then!”

There’s something about Varly that makes him want to be extra sure. “You wanted to come to my house?”

“For sure.”

The silence gets a little weird for a few seconds. When no further explanation is forthcoming, not even something like “because I wanted to hang out with you” or “because I heard you have video games” or even “because I was bored and stalking my teammates”, Matt gestures towards his house again. “Um. It’s this way. We could. We could jog, or something? Or walk? It’s like . . . a mile?”

Varly watches him for a second, digesting, before nodding. “Uh. We walk.”

Considering his pants, Matt can kinda see why he wouldn’t want to try and jog anywhere. Varly and Gali will get along famously, he finds himself thinking with a tiny bit of exasperation. Varly trails him easily enough, just a little behind until a few blocks pass and he starts to feel comfortable enough to creep closer. Soon they’re walking side by side, mostly silent except for the soft scuff of Varly’s shoes when he drags his feet a few times.

There are a few things Matt feels like he should be saying, starting with “I’m sorry” and moving on from there, but all he can think of is “so, you like Denver?” He feels like one of those lame reporters who asks the same question the person before him asked, just because he doesn’t want to go off script.

“It’s tall,” he starts, makes a face at himself. “Very high? I like mountains.”

“The fishing’s amazing,” Matt finds himself saying for no real reason, but he’s glad he did because Varly’s face lights up gloriously, his eyes becoming sharp and clear.

“Yes! Back home, I fish with friends. Is my hobby.”

And there, that’s something. “I can take you some time. You ever try fly fishing? I’ve just started to pick it up this season and it’s pretty fun.” He mimics the casting motion peculiar to fly fishing and Varly nods slowly, comprehension building.

“Yes! For sure, we fish together!” His face lights up, loses the overcast grayness under his eyes for a few seconds. Matt feels absurdly glad to have produced that glow.

Casa Duchene is still going through a bit of work, a lot of arranging and putting things in their places, figuring out how he wants to keep this house he’s now in charge of. It’s weird, he finds himself mashing together his room at home with his basement at Footer’s place, and resulting in a weird amalgamation of the two places he’s always felt most comfortable. But the problem is he now has a lot of space, he thinks it’s called square footage but don’t quote him on that, and so one corner of his living room and bedroom are pretty comfy, and the rest of the place is like one gigantic blank slate that he can’t quite figure out. Probably he could have gotten something smaller, but he didn’t and now he’s stuck with a lot of space that just looks awkward and unfinished as he gropes around mindlessly for things to throw in there. It’s not like he has to impress Varly — he’s a guy, he’s probably not gonna have a lot of words to say about his décor. But he’d sorta like to be able to show him something nice and settled, instead of this.

Which is a little weird. He had Paul and Factor and EJ over when the place was still bare ass walls, and not thought twice about it.

Maybe he’ll steal Haley and make her help him pick a color scheme or something. Probably Paul wouldn’t mind, and at least his house would start to have colors aside from blue and burgundy.

“Sorry, it’s --” he starts, toeing off his shoes.

“You have same Roy jersey!” Varly’s off, reaching out to the famed jersey on the wall, autographed and behind glass.

“I was almost a goalie, thanks to him,” Matt finds himself finishing. “Maybe we’d be partners, if I had been.”

“Been goalie? No. No, would be bad.” Varlamov sounds more vehement than Matt would expect, shaking his head. “Is hard to be friend. Like rival, but with same team.”

Which. Okay, it’s true enough. Forwards have four lines and 12 positions to fight over, but goalies have the two. Starter and backup, always after a position that only one of them can have. Matt’s never really wrestled with that level of competition within a single team.

“Oh. I. Yeah, that makes sense.” Matt realizes that he has Varly trapped inside his entryway, paused half between his living room and awkwardly attempting . . . something. Friendship.

“This your house?” He looks so hopeful Matt doesn’t have the heart to tease him about the obvious.

“Yeah. Um. Sorry, I’m a bad host. You want something to drink? I’m not legal in the US till January, but I have some Gatorade and.” He tries to envision his fridge. “And steak marinade.”

“Um. Gatorade, please?” He seems horrified, like he’s thinking Matt might actually have been offering him some delicious flavorings to drink.

Matt walks towards the kitchen without inviting him, somehow knowing that Varly will follow him in there. Sure enough he’s at Matt’s elbow, leaning in to peek at his fridge to see what he’s got going on in there. He has some water, and a few left over beers from the housewarming, but otherwise it’s still in the rebuilding stage and not that appetizing in there.

“Oh, hey! I have some leftover vodka from my housewarming. Everyone brought me a bottle, I think they thought they were being funny.” He’s finally gotten rid of most of it, mostly by foisting it off on Ry when he’d gone home. His freezer looks pretty sad without it, which is all sorts of wrong.

“Um. No, thank you.” He seems a little horrified at the implication, which is. Funny, actually.

“You sure you’re Russian?” He means it as a joke, but Varly gets a little sharp faced when he says that.

It’s kinda hilarious to hear Varly scolding him, but he’s too serious for Matt to crack a smile. “Not all Russians the same, Matt.”

“Sorry,” he mumbles, burying his smile in the fridge until he feels like he might not crack up. “Right. So, Gatorade.”

Varly feels warm against his back, or maybe his front is just freezing from hiding inside the fridge for so long. Varly has no interest in personal space, taking over his bubble by leaning over his back as he rummages. Matt can feel his hand at his back, low between his hipbones and pressing him forward just a tiny bit. He makes a sound, pushes back against him because being killed by beaning his head into a shelf of his fridge would definitely go down as one of the lamer deaths.

He’s still choking back a laugh, handing the bottle over his shoulder as he pulls up straight. When he turns back, cracking the seal of his own bottle, Varly is watching him closely. His eyes dart over him even as he swallows from his drink, taking a deep pull that indicates thirst, or distraction.

\\

Varly is, of course, a competitive SOB and more than that he’s actually good. Matt finds himself losing more games than he expected, especially considering that when he plays against his teammates he’s pretty much the undisputed King of NHL12. He’s not used to losing against someone who actually has an investment in the game, it’s a little bit weird and also unsettling because he’s losing and it’s not cool. Maybe it came because they got into a fight over Patrick and he’s playing without him in net for the first time since he got the game, but he’s not sure.

“Do you do this a lot or what?” He doesn’t mean to be whining, but he totally is.

“With friends back home, yes.” And maybe he means he plays it a lot. Maybe Varly never does anything at home except sleep and play videogames, and that’s why he’s so effortlessly beating Matt at his own game. Or maybe he can blame his horrible play on Varly practically living on his lap, taking up his space with long, thin legs and some surprisingly effective elbows, but the fact is he’s played this game drunk and still won. He really shouldn’t be a distraction – he’s actually really quiet and the only annoying thing that Matt can put a finger on is his laugh that could shatter glass. And that’s very, very gradually becoming endearing, so the only thing he can blame anything on is himself for playing poorly, and that sorta sucks.

On the ice they don’t have much to do with each other, that much is true. Matt does his thing on one end, and Varly does his on the other. He knows that Varly and Burner are getting close, like any good defenseman and his goalie, and he’s already learning to lean on Giguere like a father, but for some reason when they go home, Varly follows him. He’s not going to argue with that.

Hopefully by the time they really start working together on the ice he’ll stop being distracted by the novelty of him, by his very existence. There are things he wants to know about Varly that he doesn’t find himself wondering about Hejda, or Kobasew. And probably he should be wondering about that, but more than anything he’s just really fascinated by how they’re building up the team together.

He finds himself asking “Russia is home?” It’s a weird thing to be fascinated by, but he is. How Milan will never speak of the Czech Republic as any place except where he happened to be born, while Peter legged it back to Sweden without ever really glancing back. It’s strange to him how roots work, and he often wonders how it’s gonna be for him in the end.

There’s no hesitation for Varly. “Yes,” he replies, pushing his player up the ice fast. “I want to play in NHL, that is why I come. But Russia is home.”

He’s so certain; it’s sorta fascinating for Matt. There’s so much about Varly that seems unsure, seems to still be struggling to settle into Denver and the Avalanche.

When he loses his third straight game Matt pretty much has to turn in, toss his controller to the side because it’s one thing to give up, and another to be defeated. “Fine, you are the master,” he mumbles, making a face at the screen.

There’s the biggest shit eating grin on Varly’s face when he nods, puffing up a little. “Yes, I am.”

\\

Fishing in the high country is a pleasure that he finds himself denying himself, sometimes. A little reward at the end of a task, something that he has to look forward to instead of getting it immediately.

There’s an intimacy with the wilderness, with just himself and the rush of water and the quiet anticipation of a bite. There’s something almost helpless about it — he can prepare, tie flies and cast perfectly, and fish either will bite, or they won’t. There’s a moment of the cast that feels like leaving it to fate, and it’s something he both loves and dreads, like the moment his puck leaves his stick and all he can do is let it go and wait.

Semyon has started to come with him into the mountains. It started as an offer he made without expecting it to shape up into anything at all, and turned into Semyon appearing at random moments, face hopeful and impossible to deny. He’s going out more than he normally does, partially to learn the technique, and partially because he can’t tell Semyon no. They almost never speak, just share space with quiet companionship, but Matt can feel how badly he needs even that, the semblance of normalcy at the moments when his life feels so foreign.

There are moments when he’s angry at nothing and frightened of everything and alone in a room full of people. That’s when Matt invites him, instead of waiting for him to ask.

“I am fine.”

It sounds memorized, like a line he’s repeated one too many times. It’s lost any meaning.

It’s bullshit. He’s not fine, hasn’t been since it happened. The hockey world isn’t fine, and most of them were never intimately tied up with Lokomotiv like he was.

“You’re fine.”

“Please. Don’t.”

“Okay.”

Semyon is grieving. There’s nothing Matt can do about that except be there when he wants him to be.

“It seem. Nothing will be same. Everything become different.”

Matt feels stupid replying to that. There’s nothing he can do except agree.

“I not always know what I do anymore.”

When Semyon leans against him Matt allows it, doesn’t comment on it beyond shifting so that he can better take his weight against his side, flicking his line against the water in another cast.

\\

“Those flowers? You say they are flowers?”

It comes out of nowhere, after several moments of just walking back to his house and soaking in the sunlight and Denver air. Matt doesn’t startle, but it’s a near thing.

“I. Uh, yeah. Footer — Adam Foote, he was our C last year? — he told me that, once. He said that they were flowers at first. But they’re hard to kill, and they spread quick, so they became a weed. It’s sad, isn’t it? That something gets so much grief just because it can survive?”

Matt’s only vaguely heard the phrase “survivor’s grief” before but that’s what he sees on Semyon’s face when he glances over at him, something far away and rooted in Yaroslavl. It’s strange how easily he recognizes something he’s only heard about in passing, how instantly recognizable it is.

He tries not to sputter, to stumble through his words like a drunken tourist, but he finds that they’re just not working out for him. “They. I like them, though. They’re pretty, and I think they should still be flowers. Flowers that are hard to kill are the best, because anyone can grow them. I mean, my plants always die, but I think I could grow a dandelion like a pro.”

It’s the weirdest feeling when Semyon slips his hand into Matt’s, palm to palm and holding on tight. But, well. Peter didn’t let go of Milan’s hand for more than a minute or so when he’d come back last season, so probably it’s not so weird after all.

He looks down at their hands, and then squeezes gently. The taller man looks to him, and that look is off his face, replaced by an absent smile, so Matt counts it as a win for himself.

 \\

“Why?” He finds himself asking, flicking his line harder than he needs to. “I know EJ and Burner have texted you. Joe is there if you ever need him, so. Why?” He means to say ‘why me?’ but can’t quite bring it out, because he’s grateful either way.

There’s that lapse in time while Semyon finishes processing what he said, holding it inside his head until he’s sure he’s translated it properly. Matt’s heard that the moment of fluency comes when you can think in a foreign language without first translating it from your mother tongue. Semyon’s not there, but he gets closer every day that Matt sees him. More days than not.

“You are my friend,” he begins, then shakes his head. He begins to mumble a few words in Russian, words that don’t make any sense to Matt except that Semyon is frustrated with his English, unsure how to say what he means. Matt’s discovering that there’s a lot of subtlety that Semyon lacks in English, that he gets frustrated with how much he wants to say but can’t, quite. “I. Time here, it is nice. I am happy here.”

It’s probably not exactly what he wants to say, but it’s close enough that Matt thinks he can figure it out. “I’m glad you’re here, too. We’re gonna kick ass with you in net.”

He blushes, just a little pink on top of the sunburn he’s getting across his cheekbones. Matt wants to press his fingers to the skin, see if it’s as warm as it looks, but that’s sorta weird, so he doesn’t.

“Not just Avalanche,” Semyon admits after a moment. “Happy with you.”

“Oh.” It seems like it should carry a lot of weight, but instead it just makes him shrug. Semyon’s not great at English, and Matt doesn’t speak Russian barely at all, and so they have to meet somewhere in the middle where their shared language isn’t always enough. On the ice he compensates with hand gestures and enthusiasm, screaming at his defensemen with wide, sweeping arms until they do what he wants them to do. With Matt there’s usually a lot of awkward smiling and nodding and then sorta sinking into familiarity, if it doesn’t become clear enough in a short space of time.

Semyon looks disappointed, like that should mean more than what he said, so Matt shrugs. “I’m glad.” It’s really the best he can do, when he’s not completely sure he understands.

There are so many things about Semyon he wishes he could understand.

\\

“What do you like being called?” Matt finds himself asking one day, sprawled out on the couch with a water bottle balanced on his stomach.

“Varly?” He looks confused, but it’s not exactly what Matt wants to know.

“No. I mean. Like. What would you have me call you, if you had a choice?”

There’s a weight that lifts off Varly then, his shoulders rising up his spine until he unfolds completely. “They. Semyon.”

Matt’ll be the first to admit that sometimes he utterly butchers pronunciations, but “Semyon,” trips off his tongue with only the lightest hitch, and the smile Semyon shoots him is entirely worth any awkwardness it might cause his tongue. “Okay. I’m gonna call you Semyon. I mean. Probably not always, but if that’s what you like, then Semyon.”

It’s strange how that moment, the little smile on Semyon’s face, feels more important than the seconds that come after. The ones where long fingers tangle in his curls and Matt is pulled forward, Semyon slipping his lips over Matt's with a little exhalation that feels a lot like gratitude.

“Huh,” he mumbles after a moment, pulling back to look at Semyon, really get a clear image of him. He’s blushing — that’s not his sunburn making his cheeks a vivid, rosy pink this time— and he’s biting his lip between his teeth, nervous in meeting Matt’s eyes.

Probably this should feel awkward, or strange, but it’s hard to pretend that they haven’t been circling around it for weeks. Mainly it just feels inevitable.

“It’s fine,” he finds himself saying, reaching for Semyon and pulling him closer again. “It’s good, Semyon.”

He all but collapses against Matt, sagging his slight weight against Matt’s front. “Thank you,” Semyon breathes against his neck, lips skimming his pulse and Matt shivers, digging his fingers deep into the meat of his shoulder, gripping.

“I. You’re welcome?” He’s still not sure what he’s done, not really, but if Semyon has benefited from it then he’ll do it again, then again.

He’s hot, and welcoming. When Matt asks he opens to him, tongues tangling together and Matt groans against his lips. It’s not like kissing is the best thing ever, but it’s pretty awesome with Semyon, who’s excited and eager, arching against him and groping him enthusiastically. That is absolutely awesome.

Semyon melts against him, hands sliding down Matt’s back and gripping, tugging him closer until they can grind together, hips rolling in a lazy rhythm. It doesn’t take a lot, just sharing hot, panting breaths and rutting against each other and Matt’s so ready for this, so past all the slow, cautious courtship they’ve been fumbling their way through without even realizing it. He’s thick and heavy against Matt’s hip, whining high in his throat as they rut together — delicious, grinding pressure. They could stay like this but he doesn’t want to, gripping the bottom of Semyon’s ridiculous shirt and stretching the hem out of shape as he fists it, tugging it over his head.

There’s something fascinating about the play of muscle under his skin, how his stomach tenses and shudders and Matt can’t really resist the urge to make his way down to his navel, nipping bruises along the sharp blade of his hipbone. His stomach hollows as he pulls away from the sting, giggling a little as his hands settle lightly on Matt’s shoulders, fingertips playing absently with the curls at the back of his neck. When he mouths over the thin denim of his jeans Semyon lets out a weak, thready little howl in the back of his throat, legs trembling until Matt pushes his pants down his hips, tangling up at his ankles where he kicks weakly at them, legs jerking periodically.

In comparison to a lot of things he’s done in his life, it’s not particularly difficult. Different, but not really complicated, per se. Playing hockey, learning how to score on a good goalie, that’s a lot harder, and when he starts giggling about the words ‘score’ and ‘goalie’ in the same sentence when he’s got Semyon shaking apart underneath him he almost gags himself, has to pull away until the laughing fit stops and he can coax him to a lazy, gasping orgasm.

Semyon’s pliant with afterglow when Matt finally comes, shoving his pants out of the way and rubbing off against his hip, slick with sweat. He can’t stop noticing how corded Semyon’s biceps are as he holds on to him, fingers digging into his hips. There are a lot of subjective promises and whispered heat, silk and velvet against his skin. When he collapses against Semyon, smearing come between them and not even caring, the Russian grabs him almost painfully tight, whimpering incoherent gratitude into his sweaty curls. Matt finds himself holding him until they’re both too hot, tangled in half discarded clothing and slowly sticking together. They’re too hot and too messy and completely boneless in that way where nothing in the world matters except that.

“Semyon,” he murmurs, poking at his shoulder. It takes him a moment to wake up, and when he manages it the Russian’s pupils are blown huge as he blinks his eyes open, nuzzling gently against Matt’s neck. “Semyon, hey.”

He shivers, face pressed into Matt’s neck and spine a long line of skin and sweat. He looks perfect there, like something Matt’s going to want for as long as he can have it, sharp and fine and clear.

“Matt, hey.” His voice sounds thicker than even usual, sleep worn and raspy, but he’s smiling. It’s wide and has his eyes crinkled up, face half buried in pillows and comforters. He stretches out and just grins, drawing Matt back to him, relaxing into him.

With the sun behind him his hair looks like a lot of dandelion fuzz, golden and newly bloomed.