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'Round the Outside

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Ryan is usually a minds-his-own-business kinda guy. He's not stupid: he knows, coming into a team where the familiarity and cohesion are already set at a surprisingly high bar, it's best, at least right at first, to keep quiet about everyone elses' quirks and routines.

Even if some of the routines involve some incidents Ryan's pretty sure he's not supposed to have noticed. Or some habits everyone else looks past, going impressively blank when someone outside the team brings it up.

When Dan goes home with Cally after half their games, for instance. Just about everything Brian and Prusty do. Whatever it was between Dubi and Zherdev a few years back (from what little Ryan's heard), and nobody so much as mentions the looks Dubi gives Artie, now.

For a bunch of otherwise loud-mouthed idiots that run their mouths like they'll be struck dumb tomorrow, this team has down pat a pretty discrete system. And hey, Ryan's a good guy, he knows how to navigate it. He plays hard, keeps his head up on the ice, throws back the chirps in the lockerroom, and keeps the focus on winning, winning, winning.

Until Dan, fucking Dan, who gets no credit for all the shit he does for the team from the mainstream media, nothing said about the way he plays some elite goddamn defense with Staalsie on any of the panels that should damn well know better than to ignore him, bullies him into dinner about a week after Staalsie gets hit.

Dan's place is quiet, and Ryan's so used to going everywhere with Derek two steps behind him that he feels a little awkward arriving alone.

"Settle down, man," Dan says, laughing at him a little, holding two beer bottles by the neck in one hand. He offers one to Ryan, and Ryan does settle a little, now that he knows it's not - dinner, just grabbing a few beers with his new D partner for the next who-knows-how-long.

And it's fine, going over potential game-plans and match-ups, trading stories about hits and bruises and even if Ryan has a good deal less to offer in terms of playing on Danny's level, it's easy. Relaxed and low-key, and Ryan has another beer.

Then another one, and a few more once he's sat down on Dan's couch, sinking into the plush cushions with his feet up on the coffeetable and feeling the alcohol spread warm and heavy through his body.

Dan's insisting he doesn't mind the lack of media attention, one big hand reaching up to run through his curling hair. "Really. It helps me focus. Not having to worry about anything more than the game? That's a good thing, trust me."

Ryan makes a face around his next swig. "Hey, f'you say so." He pauses for a moment, then says, "Bet Callahan thinks you should get some more credit, though."

He's not sure what prompts it, some small thread of something that doesn't feel exactly like jealousy. He can't put his finger on it, but he blames the beer. It's already out of his mouth anyway, and Danny's already stopped with his beer half-way to his mouth.

Dan sets it back down on the coffeetable. He doesn't answer right away. "Yeah, well. Cally thinks a lot of stupid things."

It's a really lame hedge, and Ryan smirks a little. "Right."

Dan narrows his eyes at him, alcohol making his face look flushed, and Ryan fights to not raise his eyebrows back expectantly. He meets Dan's gaze head-on instead, keeping his face as blank as he can.

"I'm sure Derek thinks a lot of things like that, too," Dan says, abruptly going on the offensive, leaning forward like it's a challenge.

And damn it, Ryan's too buzzed to look Dan in the eye and talk about Derek like he would talk about anybody else. He glances at his beer dripping a ring onto Dan's coffeetable, intentionally breaking eye-contact, and when he looks back, Dan's settling into his side of the couch, mouth set in a self-satisfied half-smile.

"That's what I thought," he says, voice lower than usual.

Ryan takes his feet off the coffeetable and sits up straighter. His head swims with the sudden movement. He knows, in some distant corner of his brain, that he needs to leave this as it is. But something makes him say, "We're not- Steps isn't...We aren't like." He waves his hand at Dan, trying to encompass him and Cally even with Cally not here.

Dan snorts, and Ryan bristles. "We're not."

"Fine." Dan's head lolls sideways against the back of the couch, regarding Ryan carefully. Ryan swallows, tries to straighten his spine and seem as confident as he usually feels.

Then Dan's sliding over on the couch, and wrapping his hand in the collar of Ryan's shirt. He's too close for plausible deniability, but he doesn't do anything else after that for a bit, like he's gauging Ryan's reaction.

Ryan doesn't know what to do, besides trying to keep his heart from beating itself through his ribs and trying not to see how Dan's lips are kind of ludicrously pink.

"You, uh-" He starts to say, and then Dan's pushing him down against the high armrest with the hand he's still got fisted in Ryan's shirt, knuckles hard and unforgiving against Ryan's chest.

Ryan doesn't kiss guys, really. He's thought about it, sure. He'd be lying if he says he hasn't thought about doing to Steps what Dan's doing to him right now, pressing him down and taking his mouth hard in a kiss like this. Hell, even Dan knows he'd be lying, apparently.

But it's so different, Dan's stubble scraping against his own, heavy weight keeping him pinned. Ryan's pretty sure he could get out from under him without any trouble if he really put his body into it, but it's not...it's not bad, feeling Dan over him, opening his mouth over Ryan's bottom lip and shifting a thigh between Ryan's. That's a little awkward how they're positioned, but Dan doesn't push, just leaves it there, hot and comforting between Ryan's legs.

Then Dan's drawing back slowly, relinquishing his grip on Ryan's shirt last. He spreads his fingers out, smooths the wrinkles in the fabric, and smacks Ryan's chest with the back of his hand, quickly, before standing up with a groan.

"You're totally like that," he informs Ryan, reaching down to collect the empty beer bottles on the table in front of them.

Ryan doesn't make sense of it for a moment, dazed and hard in his jeans now.

Dan's already huffing his amusement, eyes crinkling, and moving into the other room before Ryan can muster up a plaintive, "That's not - that's not even what I meant..."

Dan's laugh filters in from the kitchen, bottles clinking as they go in the trash. "I know."